- Chicago won and Green Bay lost on Sunday to shuffle the top of the NFC North standings
- The Bears have closed the gap with the Packers in the divisional odds
- Read below for our best betting advice on the NFC North
Oh, how the perception of an NFL division can turn on a dime.
In early September, the Minnesota Vikings were the presumptive favorite to win the NFC North, ahead of both the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Those two teams are now neck-and-neck atop the division after six weeks of football and heading into this week, Aaron Rodgers appeared to be stringing together another MVP-caliber season. That campaign hit a snag on Sunday afternoon when the Packers lost handily to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 38-10.
Chicago won its game at Carolina, 23-16, and is now 5-1, ahead of the Packers, who sit at 4-1 following their loss. With a game in-hand, the Packers are still expected to win the division, but the Bears closed that gap some on Sunday. Green Bay has crept from starting the season at +181 to win the division to its current -167, but the Bears have moved from +393 to +150. Both are off to strong starts, but is it smart to bet on a strong finish for Chicago?
The NFL divisional odds for all teams should be watched closely as the season continues, as they are updated frequently and several close races are taking shape.
Odds to Win NFC North
|Green Bay Packers||-167|
Odds taken from BetMGM on Oct. 18
The Case For The Bears
When the discussion starts with a trade for Nick Foles in the preseason to upgrade the quarterback position, only to start Mitch Trubiski anyway, Chicago’s success seems all the more unlikely. Foles isn’t too far removed from a season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where a broken collarbone was the most memorable thing that happened to him.
Actually, Foles hasn’t dramatically changed Chicago’s production on offense, but after rallying his team with a three-touchdown performance against Atlanta in Week 3, he bought himself plenty of good will.
This interview from Nick Foles after the game ? pic.twitter.com/Z9Pmm6JBPu
— Bears Film Room (@BearsFilmRoom) October 19, 2020
The true anchor for Chicago has been its defense. The Bears won against a hot Carolina team on Sunday because they continued to do what they have done well all season. Entering the week, Chicago’s defense was ninth in defensive yards allowed per play, second in stopping third down conversions, and first in red zone defense. The Panthers were 3-for-13 on third down conversions, only scored on one of their three red zone opportunities and finished with 113 yards fewer than their average total offensive output.
The Case For The Packers
Sometimes you just have a clunker of a game, even if you’re Aaron Rodgers. The Packers couldn’t get the ball rolling against Tampa Bay on Sunday, and Rodgers finished with just 160 yards passing and two interceptions. He has done well to persevere through numerous injuries to his offensive line and not having Davante Adams for the previous three weeks, but he didn’t have an answer for the Buccaneers up front.
Tom Brady and the @Buccaneers win but let’s appreciate these two while they’re still playing.
Legends of the game. @TomBrady ? @AaronRodgers12 pic.twitter.com/DAUuPvkhMg
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) October 18, 2020
The Packers are the biggest threat to Chicago’s chances at winning the division, and a bet for Green Bay to win it is also a bet on the Bears being fool’s gold. Offensively, Chicago is among the league’s worst in offensive yards per play, third down conversions, and the running game seems to disappear more and more every week. The Bears were outgained by Carolina on Sunday, and were susceptible to giving up chunks of yards when the Panthers pressed the pace of their offense.
The fact both teams still have both division games to play against each other looms large. In Rodgers’ time as a starter in Green Bay, the Packers are 20-5 overall against the Bears, and during Matt Nagy’s tenure as head coach in Chicago, the Packers are 3-1 overall, but 2-2 ATS. The Bears have a slight edge in opportunity with five divisional games left on their schedule to the Packers’ four, and Green Bay’s schedule is slightly more difficult overall going forward.
Even as Akiem Hicks continues to develop into a reliable pass rusher, Khalil Mack is supremely important to the Bears — and he’s been playing through a knee injury all season. Foles has yet to replicate his pinch-hit performance against Atlanta, and has the eighth-worst ESPN Total QBR in the NFL this year. Detroit has a slim chance to muck things up a bit, but Chicago still seems too flimsy a bet to dethrone Green Bay in 2020.
The Pick: Packers (-167)